James Craig Anderson was an automobile assembly line worker, singer, life partner and father figure who was murdered in a Mississippi hate crime on June 26, 2011.
Anderson was born in Holmes County, Mississippi and later moved to Jackson, where has was an active churchgoer at First Hyde Park Missionary Baptist Church and sang tenor in the church choir. For the last 18 years of life, he was partnered with James Bradfield, who had custody of a 4-year-old relative and raised the child with Anderson. When he wasn’t working at a local Nissan auto assembly plant, Anderson enjoyed gardening and taking family trips.
On the night of his death, Anderson was standing near his truck in a motel parking lot when a group of white teens led by 18-year-old Deryl Dedmon approached Anderson and beat and robbed him, before Dedmon drove his pickup truck over Anderson, who was staggering near the edge of the lot. Dedmon drove away from the crime scene; Anderson died of his injuries a few days later. The subsequent investigation revealed that the gangs were carrying out a plan to attack Black residents in the area.
In all, 10 people were indicted on federal and state charges either in connection with the murder of James Anderson or other crimes against African American residents in 2011 and 2012. None of the defendants were sentenced to the death penalty because Anderson’s family requested they be spared. “They…have caused our family unspeakable pain and grief,” his sister said in a letter to the court, “but our loss will not be lessened by the state taking the life of another. We also oppose the death penalty because it historically has been used in Mississippi and the South primarily against people of color for killing whites. Executing James’ killers will not help balance the scales. But sparing them may help to spark a dialogue that one day will lead to the elimination of capital punishment.”
In September, 2011 the family of James Anderson filed a wrongful death lawsuit against seven of the group who were involved in the attack. Because Mississippi law did not recognize same-sex relationships at the time, his partner James Bradfield could not participate in the civil suit. During the sentencing phase of the case, Bradfield issued a victim impact statement addressed to the killers of his life partner:
“You all don’t have a clue what you have really done to my family in committing this terrible crime. I lost my lifelong partner of 18 years and our son, De’Mariouz Bradfield, lost his father of 4 years. You see, James Craig Anderson was a great man. He was a man who loved his family and was a great provider to our son and me. We would take family trips, go to church together as a family, and celebrate holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and reunions together. We had a great life and we miss him so much. Since his death our lives have been turned upside down. I have had to seek mental therapy as I could not maintain everyday life tasks; not to mention I had to take a leave of absence from my job. Losing Craig was like losing me. I had to deal with our son asking why those people killed Craig. He knows and tells me daddy Craig was a good man, daddy Craig wouldn’t hurt anyone and I miss daddy Craig. But the question, Daddy “Why did they kill Craig?,” I could not answer. Listening to our son say he wants to sleep with me because he doesn’t want those people to get me and him saying he will protect me and I will protect him breaks my heart. Visiting Craig’s gravesite was hard on me but even harder on our child. Craig always had our best interests at heart. He paid the mortgage, car notes, our son’s tuition, and he even had a college fund for our son. Things have now changed. I am left with the struggles of being a single parent. Filing bankruptcy was a struggle I never thought that we would have to face. As a parent you always want what is best for your child. Craig wanted the best for our son. Our son was in private school making A’s and B’s before Craig’s death but because I can no longer afford the tuition, I have had to enroll him in public school and now his grades have fallen tremendously to C’s, D’s and some F’s. My heart gets so heavy at times because I feel like a failure because I couldn’t keep up the things Craig did for us. We were always there for each other. We supported each other and we confided in each other.”
Anderson’s family has since founded the James Craig Anderson Foundation for Racial Tolerance.
We remember the life and legacy of James Craig Anderson and everyone who has been the victim of a hate crime.